I’ve noticed that the words creativity, connection and collaboration seem to be grouped together in a lot of different contexts these days: the workplace, schools, politics and even everyday life.
My 2014 Beakerhead experience prompted me to consider the threads of creativity, connection and collaboration in my day-to-day activities. For the past few months, I’ve been mulling around questions like:
- What changes would I like to make in order to live a more creative life?
- How can I build on the connections to the Calgary arts community that I made as a member of the Beakerhead photography team?
- I already collaborate with many talented people on some not-so-creative fronts. Am I ready to apply those skills to an arts-based project?
With the hope of bringing some clarity to my early, vague ideas on how I might answer those questions, I registered to attend Creative Calgary Congress 2014. The day was structured to encourage interaction and I met several talented local artists (including Chris Cromwell, Gisa Mayer, Carla Pelkey and David Christensen), representatives from several arts and community organizations, and even a couple of entrepreneurs who have made a business out of providing goods and services to the arts community.
The keynote address included a lot of material that was new to me (although I later learned that most of it was familiar to those who have long been part of the arts community). I learned more about hoarding than I ever could have imagined. I was introduced to the term social capital (a term that came into common use years after I completed Sociology 101) and have since done a bit of reading on the structural, relational, and cognitive clusters of social capital. But the one point that most intrigued me was Erik Takeshita’s definition of artist: one who professes and practices the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.
Why? Because it got me thinking about whether I consider myself an artist.
I started to work on developing my photographic capabilities when I committed to my first Project 365 in 2008. For the next 5 years, my photos slowly improved but were entirely about documenting the where/what/when/who details of life. In 2013, three things happened:
- Along with the rest of the family, I took a one-day photo workshop that inspired me to (finally) move off “auto” mode;
- I started experimenting with camera settings, with composition, with intentional camera movement and other aspects of photography; and
- In order to maximize my learning from all that experimenting, I started reading about photography – not only basic technical stuff, but also anything on creative visioning and/or techniques written by a wide range of photographers.
Over the past couple of years, I have moved away from strictly documentary photography. Now, at least part of the time, I work to capture a moment of light and shadow in a particular way because I want to convey a feeling, an idea or a sense of place – all of which aligns pretty nicely with the above definition of artist.
So has all of that thinking brought me any closer to answering to my initial questions about creativity, connection and collaboration? I think so.
First off, while I’ll continue to create documentary photographs (I still like the idea of an annual photo book), I will work hard to make more and better creative photographs (with the aim of inspiring others to find ways of connecting with nature). Second, I will continue to support the creative Calgary community by making and sharing photographs about Studio C and public art in Calgary (with the aim of inspiring others to explore public art). I will continue to volunteer my time and creative energy to support Beakerhead! I have an idea related to showing some of my work in print (until now, I’ve only showed my work online). And finally, I have started mulling over a new idea that would involve a massive collaboration with other Calgary photographers (but it’s too early in the thinking process to share any details).
I look forward to continuing to explore creativity, connection and collaboration in future blog posts. What do you think about all the talk about creativity, connection and collaboration? How does creativity factor into your life?